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Teachable Moment

Master the festival.

Research shows you’ll be happier if you spend your money on experiences rather than on things. So be like Jonathan Wynn, associate professor of sociology at UMass Amherst, and go to a music festival this summer. Wynn attended 18 festivals to research his book Music/City: American Festivals and Placemaking in Austin, Nashville, and Newport (University of Chicago Press, 2015) and dozens more as a bass player and music lover. His first festival was Lollapalooza in 1991, where he saw Nine Inch Nails and Jane’s Addiction; now he is excited to take his three-year-old son to this summer’s Green River Festival in Greenfield, Massachusetts. Here’s what Wynn has learned about having a good time at a festival.

Attend smaller, local festivals.

“Go to an event that has acts you’ve never heard of,” says Wynn. “It’s an opportunity for discovery.” He recommends the JP Music Festival coming up in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood in September.

At the big festivals, check out the small stages.

These acts will be moving up to the main stage in years to come. “Be as excited to hear new music as you are to see your favorites.”

Download the festival’s app.

It will provide the practical information you need, as well as clue you in to unscheduled performances.

Come prepared for the elements.

Don’t forget sunblock—and a ziplock bag to keep your phone dry.

Eat at the food trucks.

It’s part of the adventure.

Buy the merch.

The money you spend on t-shirts and CDs goes directly to the artists. “Show them that you like them and you want to see them again,” advises Wynn. 

Go with friends, but chat with your weird neighbors.

You’re a self-selected group, bound to have common interests. Talk with people who come from a different place or walk of life.

Stick around for the last act.

If it does rain and other people start to leave, all the better. “I’ll never forget seeing Jim James of My Morning Jacket leaning into the wind and rocking out in a brewing storm at Newport in 2013,” says Wynn.